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Isis, the carrier-led near field communication (NFC) mobile payment platform, revamped its approach this spring in favor of a more open system that invited credit card companies and banks to join its digital wallet service. Today, it’s announcing that it has signed up Visa (s v), MasterCard (s ma) and American Express (s axp) along with original partner Discover (s dfs), who will join the carrier initiative when it launches next year.
The deal, the first of its kind to lock-up all four major credit card companies, provides a good shot of momentum for Isis, which was founded by Verizon (s vz), AT&T (s t) and T-Mobile, and suggests that it will be a major player to contend with. It’s unclear, however, how the partnership will work with the credit card companies, who are also pursuing their own mobile payment plans. MasterCard, for instance, has also signed up with Google (s goog) on its Google Wallet platform.
But by signing up the credit card companies, Isis has a better shot at winning over merchants and businesses. Some initially balked at Isis’ initial plans to create a propriety system built off of Discover’s network with Barclaycard as a card issuing partner. Now, business owners will be able to process payments through the networks they’re familiar with. Other credit card companies and banks also expressed interest in joining the effort. So Isis accelerated its plans to open up the platform.
Isis CEO Michael Abbott told me in a previous interview that if Isis can sign up the credit card companies, it has a chance to be the one platform to tie mobile payments together. Isis will create a digital wallet app that card-issuing banks could easily have their customers tie their accounts into. The wallet could also hold loyalty card information. Consumers will interface with Isis through the mobile app, which would give them access to multiple credit and debit accounts. They can then tap their phone and pay at point of sale terminals using their various payment accounts.
Abbott said by taking a lead on mobile payments and combining with credit card companies, Isis had the chance to help standardize mobile payments and help spur adoption of NFC. While partnering with credit card companies means Isis loses out on some transactions fees, it hopes to still bring in money by building a mechanism for delivering targeted mobile offers to users based on their preferences and their behavior. Then it can take a cut of some of those deals.
Isis is still set to launch in the first half of next year in Utah and Austin, TX. It’s a ways off, but with the backing of the credit card companies, Isis will be a contender to watch. There is going to be shake-out period starting next year as offerings from Google, Isis, PayPal (s ebay) and others do battle. We’ll have to see how it all turns out. But it’s another sign that mobile payments is finally ready to really take off now.